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Articles and Quotes on the Federal Visision Controversy.


Various Quotes


Heresy Hunters:

"There are religious people about, who, I have no doubt, were born of a woman, but they appear to have been suckled by a wolf . . . Some warlike men of this order have had power to found dynasties of thought; but human kindness and brotherly love consort better with the Kingdom of Christ. We are not to be always going about the world searching out heresies, like terrier dogs sniffing for rats, and to be always so confident of our own infallibility that we erect ecclesiastical stakes at which to roast all who differ from us."

[C. H. Spurgeon,An All-Round Ministry, (Banner of Truth Trust: 2000), p. 47.]


"When exegetes and dogmaticians get together it is noticeable that they tend to sniff suspiciously at each other, as dogs do, uncertain whether they can be friends."

[J. I. Packer]


"I have spoken purposely of the history of respectable Reformed thought, not of a mythological 'mainstream of Reformed thought' because the latter is usually found by gerrymandering a canal under one's own feet."

[Greg L. Bahnsen, "God's Law and Gospel Prosperity: A Reply to the Editor of the Presbyterian Journal." (Distributed by the Session of St. Paul Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS, 1978).]


The Christian "should be an individual who is both approachable and teachable. The person who comes to him with the Word of God is both respected and heard (Proverbs 1:5). God's grace has made him compassionate toward others, winsome in his personality, and patient in his exhortation. He knows that the way to influence others with the wisdom and beauty of God's law is not through harsh invective and name calling, but through calm, loving explanation of his views and listening to the comments and criticisms of others.... In short, it can only be achieved as our own personal lives are characterized by meekness, kindness, and love."
As Calvin says: "In this matter I quite agree with Capito. This, in brief, was the sum of our discussion: that among Christians there ought to be so great a dislike of schism, as that they may always avoid it so far as lies in their power."

[Christopher B. Strevel, "The Godly Theonomist's Picture," (first published inThe Counsel of Chalcedonand now available at:]


Objectivity of the Covenant

"All who are baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, recognizing the Trinity of Persons in the Godhead, the incarnation of the Son and his priestly sacrifice, whether they be Greeks, or Arminians, or Romanists, or Lutherans, or Calvinists, or the simple souls who do not know what to call themselves, are our brethren. Baptism is our common countersign. It is the common rallying standard at the head of our several columns."

[A.A. Hodge,Evangelical Theology(Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth: 1976), p. 338.]


"…the covenant is just as real as a cow in the pasture and a child in a crib, and a bench in the church, and the cloth this chair is upholstered with; the bond is created by God and is therefore real and genuine."

[Klaus Schilder, "The Main Points of the Doctrine of the Covenant," A speech given in the Waalsche Kerk in Delft, the Netherlands on August 31, 1944, (Translated by T. vanLaar, 1992), printed in Canada.]



"Before baptism, the minister is to use some words of instruction, touching the institution, nature, use, and ends of this sacrament, shewing . . . that they [children] are Christians, and federally holy before baptism, and therefore are they baptized."

Westminster Directory for the Publick Worship of God.


So then we must ever come to this point, that the Sacraments are effectual and that they are not trifling signs that vanish away in the air, but that the truth is always matched with them, because God who is faithful shows that he has not ordained anything in vain. And that is the reason why in Baptism we truly receive the forgiveness of sins, we are washed and cleansed with the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are renewed by the operation of his Holy Spirit.

And how so? Does a little water have such power when it is cast upon the head of a child? No. But because it is the will of our Lord Jesus Christ that the water should be a visible sign of his blood and of the Holy Spirit. Therefore baptism has that power and whatsoever is there set forth to the eye is forthwith accomplished in very deed.

[John Calvin,Sermons on Deuteronomy, p. 1244.]


"These anointers say that the Holy Spirit is given in baptism for innocence; in confirmation, for the increase of grace; that in baptism we are regenerated unto life; in confirmation we are equipped for battle. And they are so shameless as to deny that baptism can be duly completed without confirmation! What wickedness! Have not we then been buried in baptism with Christ, made partakers in his death, that we may also be sharers in his resurrection [Romans 6:4-5]? Moreover, this participation in Christ's death and life Paul explains to be the mortifying of our flesh and quickening of the Spirit, because "our old man has been crucified" [Romans 6:6, Vulgate]. What is it to be equipped for battle, but this? …You who are of God observe here Satan's malicious and dangerous fraud. In order stealthily to draw the unwary from baptism, he lies in saying that what was truly given in baptism is given in confirmation. Who now can doubt that this is a doctrine of Satan, which, cutting off from baptism the promises proper to baptism, conveys and transfers them elsewhere? We have now detected, I say, upon what foundation this wonderful anointing rests. The word of God is: "All who have been baptized in Christ have put on Christ with his gifts" [Galatians 3.27]. The word of the anointers is: "No promise has been received in baptism to prepare us for combat." The former is the word of truth; the latter must be that of falsehood. Therefore, I can more truly define this confirmation than they have hitherto defined it: it is an overt outrage against baptism which obscures and abolishes, its functions; it is a false promise of the devil, to draw us away from God's truth."

[John Calvin,Institutes, 1536.]


"But as baptism is a solemn recognition by which God introduces his children in to the possession of life, a true and effectual sealing of the promise, a pledge of sacred union with Christ, it is justly said to be the entrance and reception into the Church. And as the instruments of the Holy Spirit are not dead, God truly performs and effects by baptism what He figures."

[Calvin's Second Defense of the Faith Concerning the Sacraments in Answer to Joachim Westphal [1556], quoted in Willem Balke'sCalvin and the Anabaptists Radicals, 222.]


"Almighty God, heavenly Father, we give you eternal praise and thanks, that you have granted and bestowed upon this child your fellowship, that you have born him again to yourself through holy baptism, that he has been incorporated into your beloved son, our only savior, and is now your child and heir..."

[Martin Bucer's 1537 liturgy for infant baptism.]


"Almighty God, Heavenly Father, we give you eternal praise and thanks, that you have granted and bestowed upon this child your fellowship, that you have born him again to yourself through your holy baptism, that he has been incorporated into Your beloved Son, our only Savior, and is now your child and heir."

[Strasbourg Psalter of 1537]


"It cannot be too insistently stressed that circumcision was and baptism is the sign and seal of the covenant in the highest reaches and deepest significance of its soteric and spiritual meaning. In a word, they are signs and seals of the covenant of grace, not of certain external blessings accruing from or following upon the covenant of grace. And this is so even though many who bear the sign and seal do not possess and may never possess the blessings of the covenant itself.

…What is being contended for is that baptism may never properly be said to be the sign and seal of the external relationship rather than of the covenant itself in its richest and deepest blessing. There is not the slightest warrant from Scripture for the notion that baptism or, for that matter, circumcision is simply the sign and seal of external privilege." (p. 55).

"To conclude: these two assertions: (1) that little children belong to the kingdom of God; (2) that they are to be received in Christ's name do not offer stringent proof of infant baptism and they do not provide us with an express command to baptize infants. They do, however, supply us with certain principles which lie close to the argument for infant baptism and without which the ordinance of infant baptism would be meaningless. These principles are: (1) that little children, even infants, are among, Christ's people and are members of his body; (2) that they are members of his kingdom and therefore have been regenerated; (3) that they belong to the church, in that they are to be received as belonging to Christ, that is to say, received into the fellowship of the saints." (p. 65).

[John Murray,Christian Baptism, (Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company: 1970), pp. 55, 65.]


"Now in particular I ask you to pray with me that as I baptize this child with water and receive him into the number of Christians, that God himself inwardly baptize him with his Spirit and hold him in the number of his elect."

[John Oecolampadius,Basel Service Book of 1526].


Gracious, Conditional Covenant

"His covenant with Adam was gracious in character, sovereignly imposed, mutually binding, called for trust and submission on Adam's part, and carried sanctions (blessings or curse). When Adam fell into sin, God mercifully re-established a covenantal relationship with him, one in which the gracious and promissory character of the covenant was accentuated even further -- in the promise of a coming Savior, a promise which is progressively unfolded and elaborated upon throughout the Old Testament."

Greg L. Bahnsen,The Counsel of Chalcedon(December, 1992), "Cross-Examination: Practical Implications of Covenant Theology."

Why He should keep His promise, when we have broken His covenant? Yet when we reject His covenant, and set light by it through our wicked life, we may not look that He should be any longer bound to us. Why? For He has become our God upon this condition, that we also should be His people. And how shall we be His people? It is not by saying simply with our mouth, We are the people of God.... but we must show by our deeds that we are the people of God, in that we obey Him.

[Sermons of the Master John Calvin upon the Fifthe Book of Moses called Deuteronomie, trans. Arthur Golding (London, 1583), 915b (serm. On Deut. 26:16-19).]


Efficacy of the Sacraments

"Surely the Sacraments can remind us of grace, help us to appreciate grace, and exhort us to walk in grace, but do they actually give us the grace promised in the Gospel? The Reformed and Presbyterian confessions answer "yes" without hesitation. A Sacrament not only consists of the signs (water, bread and wine), but of the things signified (new birth, forgiveness, life everlasting). And yet, the experience of Reformed and Presbyterians churches in the odd world of American revivalism has challenged the confessional perspective."

Michael Horton


"What is the Reformed view of the efficacy of the sacraments? The sacraments are efficacious through the work of the Holy Spirit, and they are always efficacious, not in virtue of the church, not in virtue of man's non-resistance, but in virtue of the power of the Spirit. And they are always efficacious to either bless or curse their recipients. The Holy Spirit is present in the sacrament. And so if you have unworthy people being baptized, children who rebel or adults that are hypocrites, or you have unworthy people taking the Lord's Supper, the sacrament is still efficacious to curse you in the power of the Holy Spirit. What proof do we have of that? What comes to your mind? 1 Corinthians where Paul says some of you are sick and even have died because you were taking the Lord's Supper in an unworthy way. Okay, well, here on the top of page 1286, Calvin says, "The Spirit confirms it when, by engraving this confirmation in our minds, he makes it effective." According to the Calvinist approach, the Holy Spirit makes the sacraments efficacious."

[Greg L. Bahnsen, Lecture onCalvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, tape #GB1125]


"The covenant of grace curses people who have the privilege of being among God's people on earth, distinguished from the world, and yet don't live up to what He teaches. That's why the church sometimes has to intervene, lest the church profane God's covenant and its seals."

[Greg L. Bahnsen, Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 7, Sections 1-3, audio tape of lecture presented in Calif., 1994.]



"The New Testament and Covenant continue the same demand for obedience. Entrance to the kingdom is dependent upon attesting obedience (Matt. 7:21), and the kingdom itself is synonymous with righteousness; the kingdom (and its commandments) is not solely future, but absolutely demands that everything be subjected to it in this current age.…Continued blessing for Adam in paradise, Israel in the promised land, and the Christian in the kingdom has been seen to be dependent upon persevering obedience to God's will as expressed in His law. There is complete covenantal unity with reference to the law of God as the standard of moral obligation throughout the diverse ages of human history."

[Greg L. Bahnsen,Theonomy in Christian Ethics, (pp. 201-2.]


Faith and Works

"I think that when we begin with the idea of faith, we have to think first of all that the devils also believe and tremble. Now we have faith by which we need not to tremble because Christ on the cross said "my God my God which hast thou forsaken me?" so that His people might not be forsaken. It is finished! It was finished, once for all. Now that is, I think, beautifully expressed in this word of our Lord. [Begin discussion of John 6:22ff]

When the multitudes wanted to make him king because He had given them bread, and they thought it would be easy to have a handout, Jesus said, when they found the other side, 'Rabbi, when did you get here?' Jesus said 'truly I say to you, ye seek me not because ye see signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. (VT: "Now then comes the crucial point.") Do not work for food which perishes but for food which endures to eternal life which the Son of Man shall give to you, for of him the father even God has been sealed. They therefore said, What shall we do, that we may work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye may believe on Him Whom He hath sent.' Here faith and works are identical. Not similar but identical. The work is faith; faith is work."


[Transcription of a speech by Cornelius Van Til at the Justification Controversy meeting of the Committee of the Whole of the OPC Philadelphia Presbytery.]


Covenant of Works

"The Westminster Confession, one of the great documents of the Christian faith, has at one point been rightly criticized over the years. Its concept of a covenant of works is not only wrong but shows a misunderstanding of the nature of the covenant...

Having said all this, it must now, be added, in defense of the Westminster Divines, that they never intended the covenant of works to be seen as a covenant of merit. However, in view of the common Protestant hostility to Rome for its ostensible doctrine of works, any talk of a covenant of works carried a like connotation. Both Rome and Westminster could justly plead that their doctrine did not assert a salvation by works, but both could be justly charged with opening the door to such a concept, although Westminster limited it to the time of Eden. The term "covenant of works" was also thought of as a covenant of "Nature." [John H. Leith:Assemble at Westminster, (Richmond, Virginia: John Knox Press, 1973). p. 91.]...

The judgment is particular and personal. The covenant is always and only instituted by God's grace. It always is a covenant of law, because covenants are a form of law, and therefore it always requires works. This, however, does not make it a covenant of works."



[R. J. Rushdoony on "The Covenant of Works",Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, (Ross House Books, Vallecito, CA: 1994), pp. 376-379.]

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